Esquire’s (I know…) Issue on Women

Ok, so I never thought I would say this. But. I, um, picked up the May issue of Esquire. And it was REALLY good. I’m still sort of horrified, honestly, given, say, their website. But, I’m a huge fan of (at least the non-fiction parts) of McSweeny’s annual compendium Best American Nonrequired Reading. Big fan. And I’ve noticed that lots of the non-fiction was being sourced from Esquire… and really good non-fiction at that. So, there I was, in my local independent bookstore, and I noticed that Christina Hendricks was on the cover of Women (the issue). So I thought, hey, why not? And ladies? It was excellent.

I would describe the thesis as “Women: You’re way way more interesting than you think you are.”

So, for you, on this Friday, a few highlights.


As part of their “5 Moments: A group portrait of five ages in the lives of women,” ages 18, 27, 35, 44, and 53, one of the 35 year-olds said, “In my 20s, I spent years building someone else’s world. I wasted those years.” I haven’t been able to get that out of my head for two weeks.


As part of their (fascinating, I thought. We’re interesting creatures…) Survey of the American Woman, I noticed that 47% of the women surveyed made less than their husband/ boyfriend/ partner. And my forehead wrinkled up for a second.

Me: So. 47% of women make less than their partners.

David: Hum?

Me: I make more than you right now. Well. I mean, I make all of it right now. (Pause). But. I think I like making more than you. (Pause). I think… if I had it my way, I’d like to always make the most. (Pause). That’s weird. (Pause). Is that awful?

David: Nope.

Me: Would you mind?

David: Nope.

Me: That’s ok?

David: Yeah. You just like making money. I don’t care so much.

It’s interesting, working out the surprising-to-yourself things you think about your own marriage. I mean, I thought I wanted to be a stay at home mom. Till, like, this week. Seriously (and when I say seriously, I mean seriously. So please don’t judge me or say I have a problem with staying home with your kids. I thought I would until Tuesday). Apparently David had foreseen that this was not actually what I wanted. That I wanted, um, capitalism. Apparently.


Finally from Christina Hendricks “Letter to Men”:

Marriage changes very little. Intelligence and humor (and your smell) are what get you laid. That’s what got you laid when you were single. That’s what gets you laid when you’re married. Everything still works in marriage: especially intelligence and humor. Because the sexiest thing is to know you.


And finally, thank you alllll for your kind words yesterday. I have some thinking to do, but in the meantime I have some resting to do. It’s a long weekend here in the states, so I’m taking Monday off and maybe even Tuesday off (we’ll see). I’m going to try to work on some off-the-web APW projects… intermittently… but mostly I’m going to try to rest. Refresh. Hang out with my husband. And hopefully the next time you see me I’ll be less burned out. Here is hoping.

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  • caitlin

    “the sexiest thing is to know you”…

    I think that’s probably the comment that I won’t be able to get out of my head for the next few weeks, as my soon-to-be-husband has just moved to my city so that our 5 year long distance relationship is history. The new short-distance situation is helping me get to know him in many new ways, and I love it.

    enjoy your weekend– thanks for yet another fabulous, thought-provoking post!

    • Congratulations on making the transition to short-distance! I’m sure you’ll be enjoying it fully!

    • jolynn

      Woooo for ending long-distances! I just closed the gap on mine a month ago, and while the adjustment is everything it is cracked up to be, it’s wonderful, more than previously dreamed!

    • Jenn

      7 years of long distance ends for me in two and a half weeks! Hope you’re enjoying it, I really cant wait! :)

      • Carly

        i have one more year of it, but i can’t wait to get started with the NON-long distance part! congrats to all of you

    • Bethany

      “The new short-distance situation is helping me get to know him in many new ways, and I love it.”

      I have one more month and my 3 year long-distance relationship will be transitioning to a same-city relationship! I’ll finally be able to start dating him “for real” as we like to say :) YAY for going to out to dinner and having movie nights!!!! We’ve never had those simple dates haha…our dates usually cost about $300 every couple months *deathtosavings*
      I can’t wait to do like you say and get to know him in many new ways that just aren’t possible form 1500 miles away :)

      • caitlin

        gah- doesn’t that last month seem to last forever??? “real dating” (love that, by the way) has been great though… we hit the cheap theater last week for a movie date that cost a total of $5! It was unreal.

    • Cat

      Congratulations on making it short-distance! My long-distance relationship became short-distance really quickly. We got lucky in that it worked out so nicely, but I got to learn a whole new set of things about him when he moved in with me after only two months of being together long-distance. There were (and are) things that annoy me (he’s a huge clean freak, and I prefer things to be a little cluttered, strangely, for one), but that’s part of the beauty of it all.

      • caitlin

        wow- what a fun little community we just found! long-to-short-distancers. I think there might eventually need to be a post about this… our wedding is still a couple months away, so give me a bit and maybe I’ll get to work on one. ;) The transition is strange and fantastic and frustrating and awesome. Or at least that’s how it’s been for us so far!

        • jolynn

          Agreed! And there should definitely be a post. It’s a whole other beast.

  • Here are two funny facts: (1) I have always made more than my partner. I used to think I didn’t care one way or the other, but after my divorce, I realized that I did care — not about the money, but about the pressure to be the only one who is keeping my family afloat. It’s a lot of pressure, knowing that every person you love most in the world is counting on you to keep them safe, fed, clothed, and a roof over their heads. Not to mention the fun stuff. I much prefer feeling like I have a partner who is sharing (and wants to share) this burden. (2) I always knew I wanted to be a working mom — the idea that I would give up my adult self and everything I worked so hard to accomplish was ridiculous — until I held my daughter, and then I was devastated that I had worked myself into a situation where I no longer had the choice to stay home with her. Even now that my children are past the baby stage (well, mostly), I would still choose to stay home with them if there was some way I could do that and still pay my bills.

    • meg

      Yeah. Goodness knows that could happen. But I suspect it’s less likely, since I assumed I’d stay home with them till, um, Tuesday? When I had a realization. Who knows.

      Yeah, boy do I know the pressure to keep everyone afloat. I’d like to never be the only *earner* again.

    • Class of 1980

      I work at home in my own business now, but I worked in the “real world” until 2003. Sarah, I worked with so many women in the 1990’s who could have written your post. They assumed they were going back to work after having a baby and they set up their finances and households under that assumption. They upsized their homes and bought new cars because they could afford it with both working. Then when their babies were born they were surprised by how strongly they wanted to take care of them full-time. But they had painted themselves into a financial corner and couldn’t stay home. I’d advise people to keep their lifestyle simple until their baby is actually born just to keep their options open.

      • V

        My friend from undergrad (we were class of 2008) recently voiced almost this exact sentiment. We were talking about how glad we were we went to the university of michigan as in-state residents and were able to graduate without significant educational debt (many of our peers were not so lucky, attending from out of state they got the same degree/education but paid almost thrice the tuition- university industrial complex?).

        She expressed that it is wise to “Never accumulate so much (educational) debt that a career as Housewife is not an option”.

        In principle, I agree with her.

        It came up because I’m applying to medical school right now, and it’s the kind of decision that locks you into a career path to pay for it. I feel like that amt of debt (~$150k) is so very final.

        Do I want to practice medicine? Yes since always!
        Do I need to in order to be fulfilled as a human being? Maybe, yes.
        Am I ok with being the breadwinner? I think so. Right now I’m proud of my partner who does a great job as an engineer, but uncomfortable that my grad student stipend is so far far less of a contribution. I’m excited about the idea of earning more.
        Is my partner ok with being the 1* caregiver? He thinks so.
        Am I ok with him being the 1* caregiver? I absolutely think he’d do an awesome job.
        Am I ok with me NOT being the 1* caregiver? … yes… today. But I haven’t seen the sweet faces of my future offspring.

        How do you KNOW, Meg?

        • Olivia

          So funny, I’m one step behind you on the applying to med school path, and also have an engineer husband. Those average debt numbers are extremely daunting. Especially when I’m quite certain I won’t be choosing a specialty that will make paying back that kind of money easy. One thing I do take courage from, though, is an article that I read about ease if post-kid re-entry into the “professions” and medicine was by far the easiest to make work. So, there’s that. But I so hear you.

          • V

            Ah, but you are many steps ahead of me in the getting married process! (I’m at ‘engagement imminent’. Though maybe that’s why the commitment to medicine is difficult right now too, it’s just so many things becoming permanent in my life at once.)

            That is really encouraging, I hadn’t heard that (post-kid reentry into medicine). I will look up the article. I just keep hearing that all residency is hell and those happen to be my (in my naiive head) ideal baby making years, and that they add more training if you take maternity leave.

          • Olivia

            Here’s the article I was thinking of:

            It says, though, that the “freedom” starts in your mid-thirties, which implies when your training is over. I’m a non-traditional student though, so I’ll still be in school then. I’ve started to accept that I’ll likely be having a kid at an inconvenient time. I think that medical culture around that is changing, though, and that even having a kid while training is easier (but not easy!) than it used to be. Family-friendliness will be an important factor when I’m picking schools to apply to.

  • All of that sounds very interesting, and it’s great that it’s made you consider Very Important Things. Thank you for sharing.
    I’d love to read it all… wonder if I can get a copy (in English) over here? If not, I may have to ask a friend to go buy it and mail it to me!

  • jolynn

    I love the bit about building someone else’s world. I think I will ponder that on this long weekend. Thank you!

  • Esquire is hands down, by far my favorite magazine ever You should not be horrified, not at all! It’s extremely well written, funny, fantastic art direction, I love it. You know Erin Jang, the designer behind the awesome invitations at The Indigo Bunting does their TOCs, and their features are always soooo well designed. I’m jealous.

    Also, I used to make more than my husband, but the mag I worked for closed now I make almost nothing, and I could care less, as long as someone is making something we’ll be all set.

    And, my other favorite mag is GQ, so I know far more than I should about men’s clothing and accessories.

    • Seriously! I read my fiance’s Esquire even more than HE does! It’s not like Maxim at all! I think the guys that write for Esquire truly appreciate what is really beautiful about women ( intelligence, wit, sass…..they like boobs, but c’mon, who doesn’t??) and can talk about a sexy 50 year old woman just as provocatively as they talk about a 20 year old woman. Also, their articles about food and booze are fantastic!!

  • Jenn

    Bank Holiday here in the UK as well! Enjoy some time off – I am going to have to pick up a copy for some travel reading…

    Also, how fab does she look on that cover?! For someone who is proud to be carrying around, for lack of more elegant phrasing, a butt of some substance, it makes me feel like I need to get a hold of that dress!!

  • Lucy

    Just want to point out that if 47% of women make less than their partner, that means that 53% of women make as much as, or more than, their partner. It’s funny that they put that statistic negatively in the article. Put it another way:

    More than half the women make more than half the money.

    I was in that 47% until recently, when my partner left his steady job to start freelancing. Being the major breadwinner is definitely a lot of pressure, but I’m happy to do it for him, and now is the right time in our life for this kind of risk. I’m okay with being the one bringing home the steady paycheck because I don’t have the ballsy ambition my fiancé has, and this is making us both happy.

    • ANDREA

      Hmm, I thought that at first as well, but apparently not:

      “2. How does your income compare with that of your husband/boyfriend/partner? (Percentages shown reflect respondents in relationships only.)

      More 29%

      Less 47%

      Same 24%

      some more interesting stuff here:

      • meg

        Yup. I was going to say. It wasn’t an article anyway, just a fact set. I was really surprised that only 29% made more. Mind you, I made less back in Brooklyn. I don’t think it matters much, but it was an interesting thing to notice about myself.

        • Interestingly, it is the first time in history that women are out-earning their husbands… however, much of the reason comes from downsizing/economy shifting, not women being compensated fairly. The economic downturn has hit blue collar industries (primarily male-dominated) the hardest which leaves some women as sole providers. Unfortunately, we still make 75-80 cents on the dollar compared to men in the same jobs.

          Re-reading this, I’m sorry that my first APW comment is so dour but I just finished a course on the topic. Meg, I’m with you though. I’m happy to be the moneybags at home. Maybe when I finally get out of grad school!

    • I am a career bureaucrat. I am by no means wealthy, and the recession has caused me to take a hit – both in my raises being rescinded AND promotion opportunities being frozen – but I make well above the national average and consider myself to be very blessed.

      FH is an academic, in a field that, currently, has about 600 applicants for every tenure line. None of the area colleges have any visiting lines, or even any adjunct lines. It makes no financial sense for him to move for an adjunct line and maintain two households. He decided that, given we are getting married this year, he wouldn’t move for a 1 year line, either. (“I don’t know if it would be good for my career, but it’s not good for my marriage.” Can’t argue that point.) I’ve told him that when he gets a tenure line, I’ll move for him – my field is one that is eminently mobile, and I would have no qualms about doing that for him.

      In the meantime, I’m the breadwinner with the good job, and he’s working on several writing projects so that he can beef up his CV, but it doesn’t pay (at least, not yet – cross your fingers!). Even when he does get that tenure line, though, unless (until?) he’s a full professor emeritus teaching one class a year, published galore and hired for speaking engagements in interesting places on interesting things (shut up, I can have these dreams for him, can’t I?), I will make more money than him.

      This doesn’t bother me, and it seems to bother him more not that I make more money, but right now I make all of the money. I can understand that, certainly – it’s not the same as choosing to stay home with your kids (for example). He didn’t CHOOSE for the academic market to tank right after he finished his PhD. It bothers me only because it bothers him – in that, I want him to find a job so that he feels fulfilled, not so that he’s making money. My mother has an issue with the fact that I’m not “encouraging” him to take just any job for the sake of working. I’d rather he work on these projects that will help his long term career goals than work minimum wage in retail, which would only serve to discourage him and therefore make us both miserable.

      In short – I feel blessed to have a job that I not only enjoy, but that I also can do this for us, to make our future better.

  • Annie

    I thought I always wanted to be a stay at home Mom, too. Like, throughout my entire life, being a kick ass wife and mom are the two only things that continued to be interesting to me. I thought about being a veternarian, a teacher, a dietician, a journalist… and then the things that always came back as bottom line to me were “kick ass wife and mom.”

    But now that my fiance just graduated and we may be moving for a potentially really amazing job offer for him, the thought of me not making money to contribute to our soon to be new family’s income completely freaks me out! COMPLETELY. He’s all, “You would be able to go back and get your masters! I can support us while you go back to school!” And I’m all, “Uhhh, I need to make money.” Numbers wise, I wouldn’t. Brain wise, for whatever reason, I would. It was a very, very weird realization. Not to say if this is the opportunity we take in life I won’t go back and get my masters, but just it’s made me think about if in the future I would really be comfortable not working. Weird!

    • meg

      Same page.

  • Christina Hendricks is a fox. She has the superhuman ability to make men and women feel sexy. Love her!

  • Jennifer

    whoa, weird! my fiance just discovered mcsweeney’s and loves it! i had never heard of it until a few weeks ago, and now here you are, loving it also. :)

  • Anjali

    I’ll be starting grad school in a year and I’ve just come to grips with the fact that I’m going to have to be supported by my boyfriend once I start school. IT FEELS WEIRD. He has always earned more than me and probably always will, just because he is in a business known for its astronomical salaries, but the thought of not contributing anything to our household makes me feel…dependent and powerless. My ability to budget my own money has always been a source of pride, you know? We have yet to sit down and talk about the logistics of all this, but I know figuring it all out together will be an important step in our relationship.

    (P.S. This is my first APW comment, but I’ve been reading and loving the site for about a month. After my boyfriend admitted he had started looking into engagement rings, I decided it wasn’t lame to start researching weddings, and went on a 2-week wedding blog binge left me shaky and disheartened. APW to the rescue!)

  • Emi

    Thanks for sharing! Not to drag this off topic, but can we discuss the work/earnings balance issue more?

    My guy is, for the most part, very progressive and secure in his masculinity. However, lately I’ve gotten the idea that he has these weird hangups about men’s traditional roles. Lately we were discussing career paths (we’re both early 20s with, shall we say, inchoate careers) and I was floored when he said something basically to the effect of, “Well, it’s different for guys. They have to make more money in case they want to support a family.”

    Um…never mind that he doesn’t even have a family (we’re serious but not to the marriage-discussion stage yet, which is fine with me. Yes, confession, I just like you guys. :) ) And never mind that this idea had both really harmful implications for men–“We have to potentially sacrifice our interests and talents for whatever is most lucrative”–and women–“Oh, lah de dah, I don’t need to worry too much about unequal pay or supporting my family because my husband will take care of it.”

    On further interrogation, he also revealed that he was very uncomfortable with the idea of a man being a primary caretaker. A woman wants to be a full time working mom? Great! She wants to be a stay at home mom? Great! A guy wants to be a stay at home dad, even when it’s economically feasible, and he doesn’t particularly like his job, and he’s great with his kids, and he and his partner have agreed that this is the best decision for their family? Um, no, weird.

    This is really confusing to me–the only thing I can figure is that, because his dad was a high-earning businessman/sole financial provider and his mom a stay at home mom for his whole life, he must have unconsciously imbibed some ideas about what a man “should” do, just as I’ve unconsciously imbibed my gender ideas from my own background.

    Wow, sorry for the novel. Does anyone else have a partner whose work/earning ideas differ dramatically from their own? Meg, I wish my guy could fly over to SF so that David could talk some sense into him. :)

    • My fiancée doesn’t quite have the feelings that you’re mentioning your boyfriend has – but for a long time he WAS very uncomfortable with the fact that I have always (and continue to) make more money than him.

      I was hoping he would embrace it – I enjoy, as Meg would say, capitalism (though I have always worked for non-profits). In my way of thinking, if I’m doing work that I enjoy, and can support us to a greater extent, it gives him the opportunity to do whatever kind of work he wants, and guiltlessly enjoy the things he loves (mountain biking, skiing, etc).

      There is some unseen pressure coming from somewhere, and I can’t quite figure out where. It’s almost like he’s hard wired to feel guilt for not making as much. After seven years of being together, we’ve both adjusted and the issue has become a non-issue. But, it was definitely there, and still exists without being an issue.

      • Emi

        Thanks Sara, it’s good to hear that your fiance is no longer uncomfortable with the situation.

        “In my way of thinking, if I’m doing work that I enjoy, and can support us to a greater extent, it gives him the opportunity to do whatever kind of work he wants, and guiltlessly enjoy the things he loves (mountain biking, skiing, etc).”

        Exactly! My ultimate goal is to have work that I enjoy and that allows me and my possible future family to enjoy life, and I would hope the same for my partner regardless of how much he makes or doesn’t make.

    • sarah

      Wow… i hate to say it, but it sounds like it may be about time for you and your partner to sit down and have a serious chat about these sorts of issues. It would be better to find out now if you don’t think these items may be negotiable (if you feel strongly in the opposite direction of his leanings, which I’m assuming from your post, you do!), as hard as it would be – rather than to get to a more serious stage in your relationship and realize that you may have bitten off more than you can chew :(

      • Emi

        Sarah, thanks–yep, I agree that it’s an essential convo topic. The main thing I need to figure out is if these views are just emotional, knee-jerk reactions or if they’re firmly-held beliefs. I wouldn’t have thought it was strange if he had said something like, “*I* would feel weird if I couldn’t contribute a significant part of the household income”–what made it strange was that he couched it in broad gender terms.

        Also most of his hangups seem to be over male roles rather than female, but of course those can also be just as damaging to a relationship because for every gender stereotype, there’s an equally negative corollary about the opposite sex, ie “Men HAVE to earn lots of money…therefore women’s careers aren’t as important.” “Men CAN’T be primary caretakers…therefore it HAS to be the woman’s job if the family decides it should have a primary caretaker.” Etc.

        • sarah

          Definitely… and like you said, it might just be kind of a spur of the moment reaction, something that can be worked on (not necessarily a deal-breaker), but that’s why it’s important to try to discuss things sooner rather than later… especially because these types of emotionally charged issues have a way of festering in us and bursting forth in the least eloquent ways, whether we’re conscious of it or not!

          For instance, I didn’t know until about 7 months ago just how important the whole “name change” issue is to my guy (*and we’ve been together for almost 5 years!), even though he’s pretty progressive on most other things, such as male/female roles. So now it’s kind of an issue of contention between us… and I kind of really wish that I would have known about it sooner, rather than having to make a flash decision about the rest of my life, this close to the wedding!

          • Emi

            Point well-taken. And sorry to hear about your name drama! You’ve probably already thought of this, but APW’s two Epic Name Change Discussions might be a good conversation starter.

            The good thing about my position is that we’re at the age where a lot of people we know are recently married or engaged, so it’s easy to use friends’ experiences as a low-pressure, de-personalized way to bring up hot wedding and marriage issues.

          • sarah

            OMG, it’s funny that you should mention the APW epic name changing posts… because of my dilemma, I had actually emailed with Meg for a post about it, and then the post occurred shortly thereafter… soooo… yea! :)

    • meg

      David and I have actually had some surprising and interesting discussions on the issue, which I’ll ponder writing about. His mom owned her own business and always made more, so I think he didn’t even have to think twice about it (so don’t judge your guy unfavorably against him, he had a life long edge). For me, there was just never much money growing up… like, there was enough, but there wasn’t ever MORE than enough, if you get my drift. I think, because of that, once I realized I had the power to earn enough money to keep us comfortable I LOVED it, in a way that I might not of, if I’d come from a more ‘comfortable’ background.

      So, anyway, that’s my back of the napkin analysis of our histories playing into our views.

      • Class of 1980

        I am older as you an see by my “name”. I’ve always worked, but always loved the idea of not having to. Now I have a business and a business partner and work at home. There is a lot of flexibility on a daily business, but we never can take a real vacation aside from extra days off at Christmas. The business is on the upswing financially – I guess the stars all lined up for us. Anyway, it’s thrilling to be making all this money, yet I still wish I had more time to call my own and could travel. So now I have a new goal – keep on working, but make the business big enough to hire an employee so I can be scott free some days and still make money. ;)

      • Meg, I grew up similarly. Comfortable, but rarely with excess. I make more than my husband and likely will continue to do so. I love making money. Not in the way that it sounds at first read, but in the way that it allows us to be able to afford to do things like give to charity, treat friends to drinks, buy the cute shoes, pay off the mortgage and most importantly not have to worry and live comfortably within our means. I feel blessed that my husband and I love our jobs and I think that is where the mutual respect comes from. I was much more uncomfortable when my guy was working hard at a low-paying job that he did not care about. When he transitioned to a place that he loves to go to everyday, the money became so much less important. I would like to think that he would want me to make less if I was unhappy…

  • Until last year, I always thought I wanted to be a stay at home mom too. But then I started my own business, and well… now I don’t. I think women who stay at home are fantastic, and am in no way knocking them. I thought my whole life I would be one of them. But now I can’t imagine giving up my business for anything; I’ve worked (am working) so hard to make my baby business into something big and wonderful. And I still want kids someday, but not as soon as I did before I started my business. And when we have them, I think it will be my soon-to-be husband who stays home, in a strange turn of events. Because I suddenly want to go out and make the money. And we’re both cool with that. Isn’t it funny how something you’ve thought your whole life can be turned upside down like that?

    • Shelly

      I totally agree – I too always thought that I would want to stay at home if I had a family, and that work would be “the thing I did until I had kids.” Until I dove into work, and loved it! But the funny thing is that recently I have been liking my job less and less, and being engaged has had me thinking about what I want my role as “wife” to look like, and the idea of being a “housewife” has begun to appeal to me. I’m sure I may change (possibly several times) my mind as our situation continues to evolve, but the great part about this conversation is that we have choices, and that our partners encourage us to choose what’s right, both for ourselves and for our baby families.

  • An I never thought I’d say this in response, but I actually think I’ll go pick up that issue of Esquire now. That quote about building someone else’s world… I definitely got wrapped up in that for my mid-twenties. I lost the conviction of my early twenties and I’m clawing back towards more authentic living for myself. Which wraps into your second musings about income. Because I’ve always known I needed to be financially independent. My mother earned significantly more than my father and it worked for them. I earn significantly more than my partner, but had always secretly hoped to take time off for children. But, when J got laid off last fall, we were damn happy that I earn as much as I do. And then I remembered all the ways that financial freedom had improved my mother’s life and their relationship. So, until the layoff, I’d had fantasies of taking my skills to a more worthwhile non-profit or starting over on a different career track in the same field that I might love more but would pay less. And then, with the layoff, my priorities changed and I reassessed our finances and the implications of my mother’s finances. So I’m figuring it out all over again – I need a job that I love, but I also want the power and freedom of money.

    Hard stuff. Great conversations. And a nice substantial way to head into the weekend without wedding thoughts cluttering my brain. Thank you Meg, and take as long as you need. I’ll still be checking in every morning when you get back from your much-deserved break.

  • this is a sensitive subject for me, really. i always thought i would earn more. like it was never a question in my mind (gaw, that sounds so naive and selfish and gross, but – sigh – it’s true.) and now, while i’m not married, my partner makes much more than i do, and i don’t think that i’ll equal his earning power anytime soon, due to different fields and me taking a bit of time to switch career directions (out with accounting, in with something i actually liked!). and he’s really good at his job — give credit where it’s due. the kiddo is a smarty-pants and a darn hard worker.

    Anyway, it’s not the end of the world, my partner couldn’t care less, and it’s just making me stop and give pause. i guess i never expected to be in the 47%, you know? I always thought I’d be in the 29% — and now that’s I’m thinking about it, it’s because I equated making more with being better… which is NOT the person I want to be. I want to be happy with my career (I am), I want to be able to support myself, if need be (I can), and I want to be able to earn more money as I get better at my job (fingers crossed). I’m ambitious, but I’ve realized it’s dangerous to compare my life to his, instead of looking at the whole picture and being okay with what i can contribute. that said, it’s hard to think about buying a house and me being about to contribute way less than 50% of the down payment. i need to either come to terms with that, or wait to buy until I can give an amount that makes me able to sleep at night.

    thanks for making me think this morning. APW is part of my routine: get up, check email, and once i have a cup of coffee in front of me, I check your site. it’s like getting a sanity check every day. (cheesy bit but i’m not soooooooorry!)

    enjoy the long weekend. xox.

    • Anicka

      I’m in a similar situation. Both my husband and I studied Computer Science, but he wanted to stay in academia, while I was going to work for a private company and thus earn considerably more. Well, in the end I changed my mind and now I’m doing my PhD in a Biology department, while he’s doing his in a CS department….meaning he earns more than twice what I do. I adore what I do now, but sometimes I feel guilty for making a career choice that will probably always have me earn less, especially after my husband supported me through my Master’s (this is the European system, you need an MSc to get a PhD position).

      Now, staying at home with kids is whole new can of worms. I definitely do not want to be a stay at home mom, but even the idea of being on a maternity leave for 2-3 years with each child and not earning a penny is a bit scary. Moreover, I think my husband would actually like to take paternity leave when we have kids, and that will probably mean losing a large chunk of our income.

      (Also, definitely picking up Esquire the next time I see the US edition somewhere.)

    • Marisa-Andrea

      I get this and I want to say to you that it’s a process; you WILL figure it out. I also think it’s perfectly normal to think about money and earning the way you do. Culturally, we are taught that money is power and the one who earns more gets the most power, right? So, I think often we as women, come into relationships with a LOT of cultural baggage surrounding money in a way that men don’t (though they’ve got their baggage about money too). But I think you’ll figure it out — you sound like you’ve got a great partner and together the two of you will determine how that plays out (if it does at all) in your relationship in a way that you will be comfortable with :-)

      • Class of 1980

        The “money as power” thing bothers me. I just don’t think it has any place in a marriage. I understand we all have emotions around money and as Meg said, our backgrounds play a big part in that. I also understand that making your own money can be a life saver if you need to get out of an abusive situation – my mom went through that. But, I still didn’t get the “money as power” chip implanted in me because I saw my grandmother handle all the bills and make all the investment decisions even though she was a stay-at-home wife. She died in 2005 at age 97. Her generation felt the money belonged to both husband and wife even when the husband earned it all. Somehow, that attitude percolated down to me and I always felt the same. I never felt I couldn’t spend money just because my husband earned more when I was married. I never felt I had to match his salary either. Yet we weren’t stuck in rigid roles – I did support us for a while when his company got sold.

        • Marisa-Andrea

          I am definitely not a fan of this kind of power dynamic within a marriage — I’m not fond of power dynamics within marriage at all. But my problem is that we live in a culture that doesn’t provide us with many models of what a relationship, a marriage without that power dynamic looks like. Men come into marriage with cultural baggage about money too. And it’s hard to unlearn. Even within my own marriage, I struggled with this issue with money. I lost my job a few weeks after we were married and remained unemployed for about 6 months. It was hard for me because though my husband NEVER made me feel like I wasn’t a partner because I didn’t make income, I still felt like the lagging partner. I did not like that feeling.

          What I have learned is that this is a work in progress. We know what kind of relationship we want to have — the work is unlearning and relearning so that we get there.

        • meg

          My quick response is that personally, I’m way less interested in money as power in a relationship (hopefully it isn’t), and more interested in the ways money can be empowering. Maybe earning money and realizing you can have it is empowering, maybe stopping earning money and realizing you can live without much of it is empowering. I don’t feel like money is power within our relationship (at the moment earning money is more of a burden…) but I find my changing relationship with money to be personally empowering. And THAT I’m really interested in.

          That said, I think unpacking the ways that we see money linked to power in relationships is important. Your grandparents clearly had it figured out CL1980. That said – that was by no means universal in that generation. There were plenty of women who were (or felt) dis-empowered by not controlling the purse strings (no matter who earned).

  • I live with my uncle and kind of stole his copy of May’s esquire. Partially just because I love Christina Hendricks too, but I ended up loving the whole thing. Not what I expected from a men’s magazine! I’ve been realizing that I subconsciously want to make more than my fiance as well…I’m graduating next month with a degree in Civil Engineering while he went to film school and wants to be a writer. I just always assumed that I’d make the most money, help support him so he can do his thing and not have a minimum wage job crush his creativity. Except in this economy I can’t even get a job and it surprised me how entitled I felt to making more money (or making money period). With the wedding 9 months out and the possibility that I will have to start applying to Starbucks with an engineering degree freaks me out. I’ve even been looking at AmeriCorps, which would give me great experience, but it’s like $12000 a YEAR. I’m not fixated on being super rich, but money is a weird thing. I would really love to be able to support ourselves without the help of parents once we’re married you know?

    • Emi

      Oh man, my condolences on your job situation–how incredibly frustrating!

      I did Americorps for one year, and it was a great experience. Unfortunately the stipend is less than a pittance because it hasn’t been adjusted for inflation since the program was founded in the early 90’s. Ick. However, I lived with relatives during my service year and as a result was able to save a lot of money. They also just increased the education award you can use to pay off your student loans or finance further education, which is nice.

      Depending on how you and your fiance feel about it, another option might be to work abroad for a year or two after your wedding. Many universities and companies, especially in the Middle East and East Asia, have a high demand for people with science and engineering degrees who can teach technical English to their employees. A lot of these companies also provide benefits and housing to teacher’s spouses.

      Anyway, sorry if these ideas are too random to be helpful. Good luck with the job hunt and I hope you eventually find something worthy of your talent and education.

      • Thank you! I’ve actually had a lot of people recommend working overseas, or joining the peace corps. I also wish I had known earlier how difficult it would be to get a job or I would have applied for grad school. but that is life. We have wonderfully supportive families. I always hear people say that the first few years of marriage for people who are young and poor and just scraping by are the most formative. And fiance always says, it’ll all work out, we’ll figure it out somehow and we’ll be alright. He is the yin to my worrywart yang. One of the many reasons I keep that boy around. :)

        • Paige

          i just spent two years working abroad in s. korea… just teaching ELEMENTARY english. and i saved A LOT and came back with a bigger savings account than most people my age. sometimes i wonder why i ever left now that im trying to find a job…*sigh

  • Marina

    My husband earns more than me–but I like working more. And like you, it was this weird, sudden realization I had. He’s been unemployed for a few months now, and a couple weeks ago I realized that we were BOTH happier with him home all the time. It’s not that I DON’T want to be a stay-at-home mom. Given my ideal world, I would choose to work part time and at a job where I could bring my children most of the time. But given his ideal world, he’d choose to stay home. All the time. He just does not like working, and… I do. So our compromise will probably be that I work full time. It’s a little weird and uncomfortable for me, but knowing how much he’d hate being the primary wage earner makes it so worth it–I’d rather be a little uncomfortable than live with a miserable husband.

  • Kate

    This is why I LOVE this online community! Thank you Meg for once again starting such an interesting and smart conversation.
    Reading your realization, and reading through the comments about the realizations of other members of the APW community I sat and thought a bit about my own situation and experience.
    My mother was a stay at home mum of legality rather than choice (we lived in the states at the time and my da could work but she couldn’t). She hated it, she hated not having work and not feeling like she had equal ability to contribute and her feelings were passed on to me…big time. So I always thought I would have a well-paying job and never have to worry about anyone else supporting me. And now… I’m in grad school and living with my FH and he is the sole breadwinner. He is doing well at work and loves working. And I am suddenly home all the time and taking care of the home etc etc. And where I thought it would drive me nuts to live out the stereotype of the stay-at-home “wife”. I love it. And I think I would be happy as a stay at home mum in the future…but at the same time the money inequality (and in my head this is a power inequality) is a really really big deal. And one I can’t seem to get over even with FH talking about how it’s “our money” etc. I feel…a bit (a lot) icky about the fact that I don’t contribute to the finances of the relationship.
    So…it’s a weird place to be, and one I never thought I would be in.

  • “In my 20s, I spent years building someone else’s world. I wasted those years.”

    This resonated deeply for me. Certainly the first sentence. But I do not believe I wasted those years. Although I was myself in academia throughout my twenties and thirties, my life still seemed centered upon my husband: sustaining him emotionally (and to a certain extent financially) through his Ph.D. studies, willingly going where he would go (including the university town where we have settled, hours from my beloved city), and foregoing having children in part because he could not envision being effective as a husband, scientist, and father all at once.

    I have emerged into my forties with a spouse moderately satisfied with his career, an incomplete doctorate of my own (all but dissertation, sadly), and an urgent desire to do something different with my own life. For the past few years my husband has given me immense support and encouragement in making a transition from literature into a much more difficult field in the hard sciences, closer to his own, but more toward the applied end of things. Speaking his language and learning to think as he does seems to have brought us together all the more.

    It is very likely that when I complete my studies my income could very well exceed his, even though he is approaching the top of his field; however, whether or not that comes to pass does not matter so much to either of us. He has been overjoyed with my progress and incredibly proud of me, even when I have been frustrated, and that has meant the world to me.

    Still, I sometimes compare myself to other ambitious women my age and find myself lacking, but then I go home to my husband of twenty years, with whom I remain deeply in love, and realize that our happiness together is itself no small accomplishment. As I look back, I realize that during those years I did not merely build a world for him; rather, we have been engaged all that time in building a world for each other.

    • sarah

      this comment almost made me cry. thank you

    • meg

      I think (or I read) this comment as not at all being about a personal life – of course you wouldn’t waste years building a life for your family. I think (or I read) the comment to be about professional life. I have logged so many hours doing the drudge work to make someone else’s dreams come true, and build someone else’s world in my professional life in my 20’s. In my 30’s I’d like to use my considerable professional abilities to build a world *I* want to see come to fruition.

  • Claire

    I’ve asked my husband before if it would bother him if I made more money than he does. Since he’s the current breadwinner, his answer is “by all means!”

    Oh, and I had a great moment when my latest issue of BUST magazine arrived this week: They printed my letter to the editor showing that Justin had stolen my last copy before I could even read it … he loves the magazine, too (which I love).

    And I love that he embraces ALL of me.

  • sarah

    i would have never guessed that you wanted to be a stay-at-home mom! you totally seem like the breadwinner type. go figure!

    until this year, when i started grad school, and quit my full-time job to work part-time, i made (slightly) more than my fiance for the past several years… but part of why i’m going to school is in the hopes of continuing on to resume my role as the primary “breadwinner”. it’s not that he doesn’t WANT or HOPE to make money someday, but i’ve always been the more motivated, driven, go-getter type of the relationship, whereas he does more of our domestic tasks – cooking, cleaning, etc. we’ve always joked that if we ever decide to have kids, we’d want him to be the stay-at-home dad. that’s always what we’ve wanted!


    • meg

      I always thought I would work from home with my kids. And this week I read something by a woman who is a stay at home mom who works for herself. She was like, “I can only really work when they nap.” And I thought, “DUDE! That’s why God made daycare!” And that’s when the lightbulb went off.

      Not that my office wouldn’t be equipped with a playpen, in this reality.

      • sarah

        it sounds good… what’s wrong with wanting it all??? ;)

        • meg

          Yeah. I just realized “work only while they nap” was probably not for me. Sigh. One day we’ll see.

          • Class of 1980

            Well it’s true. Babies and small children require constant attention when they’re not sleeping. But another option is that if you have a dedicated office with a door you can close, you can take the daycare money and hire a mother’s helper or a nanny. That way, you know your baby is being well cared for and you can see them when you take a break. When they’re sick and can’t go to daycare, you won’t have to find an alternative and you won’t have to break your neck in the morning getting them ready and dropping them off.

  • A-L

    Very interesting discussion going on here. My fiance and I are part of the 24% who earn about the same. The difference is that I own property and have various savings accounts, while he has a chunk of debt instead. So though our earnings are the same, I’m in a much stronger position finally. I know he’s okay with it, but it also bothers him. He’s working extra jobs to pay down the debt and is thinking about some additional education that would boost his salary by well over 50% (though also shifting him into a related field from where he works now). And I also know that part of the reason why he wants to do this is so that he can be the primary breadwinner so that I can possibly stay at home for a couple of years when our kids are born. Because even though he’s all in favor of me earning what I do, and is proud of my financial accomplishments, there’s still some underlying need to be the provider.

  • Oh, I hear you. Sometimes I think staying at home would be really nice but then I realize, nah, I could never do it. I would get bored. :)

    • Meg P

      There are those who consider would consider themselves professional mothers, doing the appropriate professional development, reading, etc. As a teacher I can’t see myself getting bored at home because, as anyone who works with children will tell you, every day is different.

      I’m just sayin’.

  • Oh, and we don’t really care who makes how much money either. He provides for me right now because of a messy visa situation but one day, I’ll probably provide for him while he goes back to school. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? Marriage is about a partnership not about having more monopoly money than all the other players.

    • meg

      Well, first, I should say this is an issue some couples have more feelings and/or issues around than others, which is just fine.

      But second, I wanted to clarify from my perspective. David and I both have the same amount of money. We’re a team, that’s how it goes. I, however, really enjoy *earning* money. He enjoys spending it more, I like the feeling of earning it. That’s totally different from one person having more than the other.

  • Marisa-Andrea

    I, too, love Esquire. I made more than my husband for about five seconds.

    • Marisa-Andrea

      I’m replying to my own post because everything I’d written got deleted except for what is seen above. So yes, anyway, I made more than my husband for about five seconds. I like making money. I like making my own money. The ability to make money is extremely important to me. The most interesting thing about it all: he LOVED telling people his wife made more. Weird. I don’t know many men who would brag about that. Mine did. Lol.

      • meg

        Erm. Knowing you? Those 10 seconds will come again.

  • God, there’s a post on these things brewing in my head for a while now, but I had a eureka moment lately. And it just drove home the point to me of how much marriage is a process. And how incredibly capable we are of surprising ourselves, and, I suppose, each other. ( Which is actually one of the sexiest things I find about knowing him.)

  • Angela

    I enjoyed this post, Meg. Don’t you just love those moments when you have a realization about yourself that surprises you, only to find out that your partner pretty much already knew that about you? That has happened to me a couple of times with what seemed to me to be pretty fundamental things about what I want for my future. It’s reassuring to know that your partner supports you no matter what, especially when you discover something about yourself that is surprising Also, I love Christina Hendricks – she is amazingly beautiful and confident, and I thought her quotes in that interview were great.

  • Now I have a sudden urge to go out and buy the issue. Love Christina Hendricks. Smothering.
    I like making money. Cory makes all of it right now (and believe me not by choice). I am a capitalist at heart though. So I hear ya.

  • Nicole

    I have loved Esquire for years, and always said that I wish there was a woman’s equivalent. I swore I was going to get around to starting a blog that would be the woman’s Esquire, but then I realized that all the cool girls that I wanted to attract to that blog were already here on APW, saying awesome things…

  • My husband would *love* for me to earn more than him! (But conversely because he’s the one who cares more about money in our marriage…)

    That Christina Hendricks bit is wonderful. Intelligence and humour and your smell, so true.

  • Sarah Beth

    If both of our career dreams come true, my fiance will always make more money than me. A LOT more money. I want to be a staff writer for a newspaper or magazine, and maybe publish some stuff on the side. He wants to be a surgeon.

    Baring the chance that I publish something that becomes wildly popular and sells millions of copies, or a complete restructuring of doctor’s salaries, where surgeons no longer make gobs of money, people will always pay doctors in the U.S. more than they are going to pay me. Even doctors who happen to be women.

    And that doesn’t bother me. The thing that matters is that we’re both free to pursue our goals. I think it’s important to realize that not all of the income disparity has to do with unequal pay. It has to do with career goals, too.

  • Sara

    I earn more than my soon-to-be husband. He has tried to be the bread winner, but in our household I seem to have the knack for bringing home the most money. He is now in school and as a family we decided it was best for him not to have a part-time job so he has the time to take care of some of the daily chores (i.e. dishes) and for us both to have time to be together during the week. When people hear about my fiancee who doesn’t work, I sometimes see their judgemental eyebrow raise, but we know what works for us. I feel lucky that we’ve been able to find a situation that works so well and wish that for everyone. Thanks for another great and thought provoking post!

  • Erin

    This is a really interesting conversation. I just got a job that pulls my salary up into the same class as my new husband. Even after doing veteran-level work for an entry-level salary for a few years, and being weirded-out by my own insecurities over how I should be allowed to spend *our* money since I was earning much less than half of it, I was still surprised at my relief over this new (and unexpected) development. And it’s all about the salary. This job definitely does not satisfy my deep longing for a vocation, but it seems so important right now (2 months in to the marriage) to feel like I’m an even half of the team. If I were staying at home, raising kids and food and doing the work of the home economy, I’d feel like I was contributing an even share of the work of our marriage, but when it comes to earning a salary, the numbers do seem to matter…

    Also, reading the comments from primary earning-spouses here reminded me that it’s not all personal freedom and pride and roses. It can be a lot of pressure for both men and women, even when they take pride in it. I want to be reminded of this 4 (or so) years from now when we expand our family and decide who stays home and who earns the salary. Even now, I don’t want to doom my husband to 35 years of demeaning and demoralizing work so that we can all live and retire comfortably. I don’t want to take that responsibility on either. Not that it HAS to be that way, either — we know that. These considerations have a powerful influence on the choices we’re making now. In a perfect world… Well, it will probably be less perfect 5 years from now. (Phew, my longest response ever!)

    • Erin

      I should add that my husband doesn’t really care how even our salaries are when it comes to how we spend money. And he wouldn’t feel insecure if I earned more than he does. Like Meg mentioned above, it’s all *our* money. Right now, it’s more about maximizing earning potential however we can.

  • My friend from undergrad (we were class of 2008) recently voiced almost this exact sentiment. We were talking about how glad we were we went to the university of michigan as in-state residents and were able to graduate without significant educational debt (many of our peers were not so lucky, attending from out of state they got the same degree/education but paid almost thrice the tuition- university industrial complex?).

    She expressed that it is wise to “Never accumulate so much (educational) debt that a career as Housewife is not an option”.

    In principle, I agree with her.

    It came up because I’m applying to medical school right now, and it’s the kind of decision that locks you into a career path to pay for it. I feel like that amt of debt (~$150k) is so very final.

    Do I want to practice medicine? Yes since always!
    Do I need to in order to be fulfilled as a human being? Maybe, yes.
    Am I ok with being the breadwinner? I think so. Right now I’m proud of my partner who does a great job as an engineer, but uncomfortable that my grad student stipend is so far far less of a contribution. I’m excited about the idea of earning more.
    Is my partner ok with being the 1* caregiver? He thinks so.
    Am I ok with him being the 1* caregiver? I absolutely think he’d do an awesome job.
    Am I ok with me NOT being the 1* caregiver? … yes… today. But I haven’t seen the sweet faces of my future offspring.

    How do you KNOW, Meg?

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